As isolation becomes a growing reality for many of us – with many countries having already been under weeks-long lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic – it seems a quiet few months lie ahead of us all. Helping people adjust to the new normal with slightly less trepidation is London-based creative coder and illustrator Rifke Sadleir, whose latest project Excellent Ideas Only is ushering in some light relief to a situation where time will probably feel very, very slow.
The platform has been designed in a colour palette of zany neons, topped with floating virus emojis – an approach that feels apt for these rather peculiar times. The aim was to keep the layout straightforward in order to allow optimum usability across devices, with the vivid, colourful gradients doing most of the heavy lifting. Sadleir jumped on the “bouncing virus emojis to capitalise on the first opportunity I’ve really had to use them in something,” she tells CR. “Most of my clients don’t want bouncing microbes on their site!”
Populated primarily by user submissions, the platform offers plenty of refreshingly goofy ideas to take your mind off things (“paint a picture of your stockpiled vegetables” or “build a big hamster wheel together”). However, many of the suggestions feel comfortably within reach – from reading books that have been gathering dust for months to taking the time to do stretching and light activity.
Based in London, Sadleir whipped up the platform in just a day on Saturday – shortly before the UK announced more precautionary measures, such as advising social distancing. The project came about “when the idea of quarantine in the UK still felt like a novelty and not quite real yet,” she tells CR. “I’ve been working on a few projects recently where users submit content so the main mechanism on the site was adapted from work I’d already been doing.”
Sadleir was aiming to “help people feel more together during a weird and scary time, and to provide some sort of comic relief – it’s a situation we absolutely need to take seriously but it’s also so important for people to have a laugh now and again,” she explains. It was important for the platform to strike a balance, and take an approach that avoids being preachy yet still offers a space for reliable healthcare advice in the additional Blessed or Stressed sections.
“I liked the idea of people being able to submit their own ideas – it’s definitely more fun this way and I’d hate to make a site where I’m just telling people what to think, as I know as much as the next person what to expect from this strange new reality,” she says. “I want it to act as a place where people can submit ways to seek help and also to give people in more fortunate positions a little nudge of encouragement to offer support and help to more vulnerable people, so I added in two sections, Stressed and Blessed, which is where more serious and pragmatic information lives on the site.”
So far, Sadleir estimates the platform has received over 400 submissions. “I moderate the submissions before they go live, and get an email every time someone submits one, so I’ve been cackling at my computer screen a lot over the last few days. Getting anonymous submissions over the internet on paper seems like a bad idea, but most people have been funny or super wholesome, which is really heartening. I think the current crisis has shown some of the best and worst sides of people, but I’ve seen more good than bad.”
As for the adjustments she’s had to make to her own career in these times, Sadleir hasn’t found it too disruptive so far. “I’ve been working from home for a really long time now, so I haven’t felt the disruption to daily life as much as I’m sure people in a lot of other professions have. I’m under no illusions here that I’m super lucky to have this as my job, and I have a few jobs that started before the pandemic that are ongoing, which is a relief,” she says.
“The only thing is that being self-employed means that if new work doesn’t come in, or I get sick for a long time, there is little in the way of a safety net which is a scary thought,” she adds. “This is already a reality for a lot of people though, and I think everyone is facing stress and uncertainty in their jobs to some degree at the moment.”